By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
“A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city.
But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victim, and he wears their face and their garments and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.
He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the plague.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero, from a speech to the Roman Senate.
Today there are some within the Muslim community (ummat ul momineen), who blame all our problems on others; be it America or Israel, consumerism or globalisation, communism or capitalism etc. While all this time, we’re not facing up to the fact that many of the problems our community faces, are self-inflicted! There are some calling for jihad, yet they neglect the real jihad - jihad means struggle or striving, although there are some who only interpret it as warfare!
Our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “the greatest Jihad is with your ego (nafs)”. Our greatest struggle or striving is against our own bad characteristics, against our arrogance, greed, pride, selfishness, cruelty, narrow-mindedness, etc. Is it any wonder that our communities are suffering so badly, when we have neglected this jihad? These are the main things the Prophet was calling us to struggle against! If you have any doubts about this, please study his biography (Sirah)…
However, there is another element in this concept of the enemy within. Plato, a famous Greek philosopher once compared a nation to a human being. He was illustrating how a state, as a natural institution, reflects human nature. The state will reflect the character of the people within. If we use his analogy, and apply it to our community, we will see there exists not only the enemy within ourselves but within our community too.
Before I go any further, I must stress I am not in any way judging individuals. I have not been appointed as a judge at any court of law of any city or state, nor am I qualified to do so. As I don’t know anyone else’s mind, I believe I should leave that up to Almighty God. Conversely though, I believe it is my duty to highlight serious problems affecting our community, so that we as a community, can start to tackle these serious matters in a positive and constructive manner.
Since the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate, false teachings have filled the vacuum left behind. We have for the last couple of hundred years been under attack, from a wave of counterfeit versions of our religion. Well funded by petrol dollars, these became especially well organised and effective during the latter half of the 20th Century.
There are many counterfeits around today. Fortunately, most are easy to identify, there are those which are obvious frauds, then those who are so grumpy, arrogant and hypocritical as to turn most away from following them; indeed, if Muslims didn’t feel so threatened by external influences, who would? But the most dangerous are those who pretend to be Muslims, join us in our worship and activities, but inwardly are out only to exploit us. What better description could be found to describe them than Jesus’ words, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”? Matthew 7:15 (KJV).
Many mullahs arrogate themselves into positions of influence, making the average Muslim feel inferior, always laying on the guilt trip, yet they are themselves often a factor in the many troubles (fitnah) afflicting our community. There are even those who go to such extremes as to criticise Muslims for listening to music (which are often just nasheeds), watching TV, voting, using the internet etc. They claim these are against religious law (Shari’ah), they say we should follow the religious law. But in all honesty, these are not against the Shari’ah. In fact, there is good evidence these things are not forbidden (haraam) and are in fact quite permissible. Even the general guideline of Shari’ah, is that anything which is not explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an is permitted. So are they being genuine, or simply trying to make life difficult for their brothers and sisters in Islam?
“Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam, so that he has received Enlightenment from Allah, (no better than one hard-hearted)? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah! They are manifestly wandering (in error)!” Holy Qur’an 39:22
Recently, especially since 9/11, many of the hardline mullahs started joining more down to Earth Muslims in many activities they previously claimed were forbidden, such as singing nasheeds and sufi meditations (zikr). So, if they really believed what they preached before, why don’t they practice it? Or have they had a sudden change of heart? While I would be overjoyed if this were true! I find it hard to believe, as it would go against so much of what they have said or done previously.
We have unfortunately allowed crazy mullahs to infiltrate our communities, often earning our trust, only to indoctrinate our children in their corrupted teachings. Indeed, this is how many of the current mullahs ended up that way in the first place, they were after all, once children themselves.
Instead of dealing with real issues that affect the day to day lives of people within their communities, these mullahs often argue over the most irrelevant and petty details of Islam; things that in truth are not of any real significance, such as what style of clothing we should wear, how one should cut their hair, the proper way to wash oneself or most silly of all, what day Eid should be on! In this way, they’re making a joke of Islam and have turned our blessed festival of Eid Al-Fitr, into Eid Al-Fitnah! Instead of our community being united at this blessed time, they are busy arguing over what day it should be on!
Many Muslims have unwittingly sent their children, to be taught in mosque madrasahs run by mullahs, thinking they will learn about Islam, only to find their children grow up to have very different views on Islam than themselves. We should be most careful who we allow to educate our children, as it is well known that the young are more easily influenced. If not taught about Islam in a positive and wholesome way, they will inevitably get a bad impression of the faith and become ever more distant from it as they grow older.
I do not blame the majority of individuals who get taken in by poorly educated mullahs. As like the followers of many cults, they are themselves quite innocent to the larger agenda, and unwitting participants in someone else’s game. However, that does not take away from the fact that the cult of mullahs has spread like cancer through our community, and us Muslims have allowed it to get that way…
“It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one, whom thou lovest; but Allah guides those whom He wills, and He knows best those who receive guidance.” Holy Qur’an 28:56
Islam doesn’t encourage formalised hierarchical priesthoods, like those found in some other religions. We shy away from such rigid structures in our religion due to the potential problems inherent in them, in a similar way to many Protestant churches. In Islam, religious leaders are trained and chosen by responsible members of the community on the basis of their knowledge, understanding and piety. Unfortunately this has been taken advantage of, by those who wish to exploit our community for their own ends. We need to wake up to this problem in our community and educate people on the teachings of classical Islam. So brothers and sisters will be able to identify what is the genuine article, and the counterfeit.
We need to realise something very important. I’ll illustrate with an example; Some countries don’t have the same trading standards as we do in the UK, and fake inferior products, such as medicines are openly sold. We know it is potentially dangerous if we use counterfeit medicines. Islam is the medicine for our heart and soul. What will be the effect of Muslims following it’s counterfeits?
“Shall We treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, the same as those who do mischief on Earth? Shall We treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who turn aside from the right?”
Holy Qur’an 38:28
God, Most Gracious has promised to protect His religion. “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)” Holy Qur’an 15:9. God, Most High will not allow people to corrupt His religion unchecked indefinitely, and the accounts of those involved in this calamity (fitnah) are being recorded to be read on the Day of Judgement! But as Muslims, are we going to leave it all up to Allah to defend our religion, or are we going to do something about this ourselves? This is our choice, but we are all answerable to our Lord for whatever we do, and we will all have to answer for our shortcomings…
“…if ye believe and guard against evil, He will grant you your recompense, and will not ask you (to give up) your possessions”
Holy Qur’an 47:36
“…If ye turn back (from the Path), He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!”
Holy Qur’an 47:38
Quotes from the Holy Qur’an taken from the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.